Carrie Rengers

Boosta Bid site will sell via penny auction

Have you heard of a penny auction? Wichita businessman Bill Long hadn't until six months ago, but now he's starting one called Boosta Bid .

"It's a new way to shop," Long says. "I actually stumbled across it on the Internet myself."

At the time, Long says there were about 25 of the auctions online. He says there are more now.

Long, who has four Motor Mouth Wireless stores and three All Out Detox Shops , was looking for some low-priced iPhones and found some through penny auctions.

"I figured it was too good to be true. There had to be some sort of scam to it."

He had some computer-savvy friends check into it, and they came across the programming to be able to do one themselves.

"Ultimately, what it is is it's a great way to get high-priced items at a low price," Long says.

Customers purchase bids ahead of time. For instance, 100 chances to bid might cost $60.

"At that point, you can bid up to 100 times on any items you want," he says.

All bids are in one-penny increments.

"That is why it's called a penny auction."

There's also a buy-it-now option.

"If you've spent enough on bids that it just makes sense to buy it, then the cost of the bids you've used will go toward the purchase price," Long says.

Unlike eBay auctions, a bidder can't swoop in at the last second with the winning bid.

"That's not really fair to everybody else," Long says.

So there's an end date and time on the Boosta Bid bids, but that time will be extended by 20 seconds every time someone bids.

"The auction will only end when everybody quits bidding," Long says.

If not many people are bidding on an item, he says, "There's a chance you could get it for pennies."

Which means he could lose money.

"On my end, it's a high-risk deal," Long says. "It's a very real fact that there's going to occasionally be items that we lose money on."

With enough bidders, that won't happen often, he says.

"I am absolutely hoping we will get enough traffic that we won't have that happen."

Also, there are other items he expects to make a much bigger profit on.

Long will buy popular products, such as home electronics, cell phones, purses and some women's fashion, to place for auction.

"Starting out, we would like to do as much as possible with local retailers," he says.

Long is in the process of starting to contact retailers. Any retailers who want to contact him can e-mail him at billelong@gmail.com.

He hopes to launch the site by the end of the month.

So is it a scary proposition?

"Ah, very," Long says. "But without risk, then there's probably not a whole lot of reward."

Semi-sweet

It's not quite the sweet smell of success just yet for Sugar Sisters Bakery & Cafe , but it looks like the restaurant's legal troubles may be over.

"We've got that all worked out," says Patty Sykes , who owns the restaurant with her family.

In June, Have You Heard? reported that the business, which is near Central and Oliver, defaulted on a $165,000 SBA loan. Citizens Bank of Kansas , which administered the loan, filed a lawsuit against the restaurant to collect the money.

"We just paid off the majority of it and just refinanced," Sykes says.

According to court documents, Sugar Sisters recently paid more than $90,000 and has $33,415 left to pay on the loan.

Sykes says the restaurant is now making some changes in order to be more competitive.

"We're just trying to do things that are just going to ... obviously increase sales and customer loyalty," Sykes says.

"We're going to focus ... less on the cafe side, more on the bakery side."

That will include smaller portions at less-expensive prices.

Next month, Sugar Sisters will introduce its own line of baking products. It will start with items like sprinkles and cupcake liners and eventually expand to other kitchenware and gifts.

Along with adding some new regional dishes like bierocks and kolaches, Sugar Sisters also is going to have a new Taste From TV promotion in which customers can tweet which recipes from TV they'd like to try. Sugar Sisters will make them every Monday. Whoever has a recipe selected will get the meal for free.

Sykes says she and her family want to build on the loyal customer base they have.

"We just want people to know we're still in business, and we plan to stay in business a long time," she says.

"We're not going anywhere. We're just trying to make it work."

You don't say

"Well, I finally decided that if the Big Guy comes into the Walkway (Cafe ) or the Petroleum Club and wants to update his Facebook , I better be ready."

—General manager Kathy Latham , jokingly referring to Bank of America Center owner Phil Ruffin as the reason the two restaurants now have Wi-Fi

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